Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Best Of Asuncion, Paraguay

By Jonny Blair

If you end up in Asuncion, Paraguay here is what you can do there.

I LOVE it when people ask me about South America and they say "did you go to Rio or El Calafate?" Because the answer is "no" and quite frankly, I still don't really care that much about "on the beaten track cities", which might explain how I got sentimental, inspired and perky on my visit to the Paraguayan capital city of Asuncion. I still have to pinch myself sometimes to understand why the hell I went there. A love of football, and Jose Luis Chilavert might help explain it.

1. Visit South America's First Ever Train Station

Asuncion housed South America's first ever train station and instead of destroying it when it wasn't needed, they have turned it into a museum. This is a great place to head to and reminisce and relax! Plus you're one of very few tourists so you will have the whole place to yourself!

2. Slums and Argentina

From Asuncion you can look across at Argentina. Or even better you can cross the border or get a boat trip on the river. Paraguay also borders Bolivia and Brazil but with Asuncion it's just Argentina and really worth checking out. You can get buses into Argentina as well if need be plus there's the area of the slums which is cool to look at.

3. Reminisce about Jose Luis Chilavert

Personally my Panini Sticker albums as a child influenced and inspired my football dreams. I remember seeing Paraguay in the 1986 World Cup and wondering "who the fuck they were". Just over a decade later and their goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert had become one of the world's best keepers and a final point in their international team which qualified for 4 consecutive World Cup Finals. I visited the national stadium, sneaked through the gates to stand on the pitch and "do a Chilavert". A local mused "this boys a nutcase" as I flew my well travelled Northern Ireland flag at the centre circle. "I am mate, but not as nuts as Jose" I replied, while reminiscing the time the Paraguayan struck the crossbar with a free kick in the World Cup. Not bad for a charismatic goalkeeper.

4. Plaza de Los Heroes and Buildings

Paraguay, like most countries has a history of war and this is remembered by the monuments and plaques in Heroes Square. It's worth a visit and Paraguay also has a lot of army around them.

Then have a walk round and admire the other buildings in Asuncion such as the Palace, the Cathedral, the Army building and the old style skyscrapers.

5. Heading out at night

If you're in Asuncion it would seem ridiculous not to visit some bars and you'll be pleased to know it has some great pubs, a relaxed attitude and a good nightlife. Some bars serve good food, have special shots, their own beer and even live music. This is an unusual capital city to party in.

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